Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny announces he will return to Russia on 17 January 2021

Week-ending 15 January 2021

On 13 January 2021 Aleksei Navalny announced he would be returning to Russia on 17 January 2021. This week Russia’s Military Investigative Committee (a department subordinate to the country’s federal investigative agency) formally refused to examine allegations that FSB officers were involved in Navalny’s attempted assassination by Novichok. The Federal Penitentiary Service said it would arrest Navalny on arrival for failing to attend parole reviews related to a suspended sentence he was given in connection with the Ives Rocher embezzlement case. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled concerning this case (Navalnyye v Russia, 2017) that Aleksei Navalny and his brother Oleg were unfairly convicted, the Russian courts handing down ‘arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable’ decisions in the case.


RFE/RL, 13 January 2021: Outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny says he will return to Russia this weekend after spending almost five months in Germany to receive emergency medical care to survive a poison attack. “The question ‘to return or not’ never stood before me as I didn’t leave on my own. I ended up in Germany in an intensive-care box. On January 17, Sunday, I will return home on a Victory flight,” he said in a tweet on January 13. Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20 and was treated and placed in an induced coma in a Siberian hospital before being transferred to a world-class facility in Germany. Lab tests in three European countries, confirmed by the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, have established that Navalny was poisoned with a toxin from the Russian-made Novichok group of Soviet-era nerve agents. The findings led the European Union to imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute.

Meduza, 14 January 2021: Russia’s Military Investigative Committee (a department subordinate to the country’s federal investigative agency) has formally refused to examine allegations that FSB officers were involved in the August 2020 poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny.  This was stated in the official response to a petition for an investigation from lawyer Vladlen Los, who works for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Navalny published a copy of the formal refusal on his blog on Thursday, January 14. 

RFE/RL, 12 January 2021: Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who last year survived a poison attack he says was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, has said that Russia’s prison authority has asked a court to switch his suspended prison sentence to jail time. “Putin is so enraged that I survived the poisoning that he ordered the FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service) to demand that the court changes my suspended sentence into actual time in jail,” Navalny tweeted on January 12. “This despite the fact that my suspended sentence ended on December 30,” he said in the message that also contained the screenshot of an official document of the FSIN’s motion registered at a Moscow court. According to the website of Moscow’s Simonov District Court, the move to change Navalny’s suspended sentence had been registered on January 11.

The Guardian, 14 January 2021: Russia’s prison service says it has orders to detain Alexei Navalny, a statement made days before the opposition politician is due to return to Russia after recuperating abroad from a suspected FSB poisoning. Navalny could face prison time when he gets off the plane in Moscow on Sunday. Officials said they would take him into custody for failing to appear for parole reviews after he was attacked with a novichok-style poison in August. The assassination attempt left the opposition leader fighting for his life in a Siberian hospital before he was transferred to Germany for treatment.

RAPSI, 14 January 2021: Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court will hear a bid of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) seeking revocation of Alexey Navalny’s suspended sentence in the Ives Rocher embezzlement case on January 29, the court’s press service has told RAPSI. In late December 2020, FSIN officials warned Navalny of the possible replacement of his suspended sentence with a real prison term because of breaching obligations imposed by court and evasion of the penitentiary control. According to the penitentiary authorities, Navalny left a German hospital yet in September. However, he has failed to appear in a correctional inspection as necessary since then.

The Moscow Times, 15 January 2021: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s defiant pledge to return to Moscow from Germany after surviving a poisoning attack puts the Kremlin in a major bind. President Vladimir Putin, observers say, is caught between a rock and a hard place: allow his most outspoken critic to freely return to Russia and risk looking weak, or hand Navalny a lengthy prison term and potentially turn him into a global cause celebre. “There is not a good decision here but some sort of decision will have to be made,” political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya told AFP. The 44-year-old’s announcement that he was returning to Moscow on Sunday aboard Pobeda — Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary whose name means “Victory” in Russian — drew gasps from admirers and critics alike.

Meduza, 15 January 2021: Moscow prosecutors have issued a warning on their website urging people not to take part in an “unauthorized mass event” at Vnukovo International Airport on the day opposition figure Alexey Navalny is set to return to Russia from Germany. This event hasn’t been coordinated with the city of Moscow’s executive authorities in the manner prescribed by the law. […] Both the organization of an unauthorized public event and participation in it will incur liability under the law of the Russian Federation.  The department also said that on Friday, January 15, “persons calling for participation in a mass event” were warned against violating the law. Who these warnings were issued to was not specified. 

Meduza, 15 January 2021: Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport, where opposition figure Alexey Navalny is set to land on Sunday, January 17, will not be allowing journalists on its property to cover his arrival. In an email to the news portal Sota Vision, spokespeople for the airport attributed this decision to anti-coronavirus measures. In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection, as well as to ensure the safety of the arrival of passengers and guests of Vnukovo International Airport, mass events, including the organization of media activities on the territory of the airport complex are temporarily suspended. At the same time, the Vnukovo Airport’s spokespeople assured that a video of the passengers on the flight from Berlin “will be provided.” Sota Vision announced that it intends to broadcast from Vnukovo Airport “regardless of its press service’s readiness to cooperate with journalists.”

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RAPSI, 12 January 2021: Alexey Navalny has filed a cassation appeal against a ruling on the recovery of 3.3 million rubles (about $45,000 at the current exchange rate) of legal expenses from him in a defamation dispute with the Crimean meat processing plant Druzhba Narodov, according to the Moscow District Commercial Court’s records. The applicant has challenged the Moscow Commercial Court’s ruling of September 1 and an appeals ruling of December 14, 2021. In March 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed Navalny’s motion to reconsider a ruling in his defamation dispute with Druzhba Narodov ordering the blogger to remove and refute information on the enterprise he had distributed. 

RAPSI, 14 January 2021: A defamation case against Alexey Navalny over his statements about veteran of the Great Patriotic War Ignat Artemenko will be resumed on January 20, RAPSI has learnt in the press service of Moscow’s Babushkinsky District Court. A justice of peace suspended hearing of the case because of the blogger’s illness in late August 2020. In early June, Russia Today TV channel published a video where the 93-year Artemenko and other respondents were reading the Constitution preamble. Following that, Navalny released a video with comments on his social networks insulting the veteran.

RFE/RL, 15 January 2021: Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says a member of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has been detained on a charge of inciting extremism. According to a tweet by Navalny on January 15, Pavel Zelensky was detained over a tweet he sent last year following the self-immolation of journalist Irina Slavina in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. In his tweet on October 2, Zelensky condemned the Russian authorities, saying they were responsible for the journalist’s death. Slavina died after setting herself on fire in front of Nizhny Novgorod’s city police department on October 2 following a police raid on her apartment in an apparent search for evidence linking her to an opposition group.

Meduza, 14 January 2021: In her latest video for “Navalny Live” opposition figure Lyubov Sobol revealed that her campaign manager, Olga Klyuchnikova, found a listening device planted inside her cell phone following her release from jail at the end of December 2020. According to Klyuchnikova, her iPhone was “noticeably malfunctioning” when she was allowed to use it while still in custody, leading her to believe that FSB officers had “clumsily” tampered with the device. She now plans to appeal to state investigators to open a criminal case for violation of privacy.

RAPSI, 15 January 2021: Opposition figure Lyubov Sobol has been charged as part of a criminal case over forcible violation of inviolability of dwelling, attorney Vladimir Voronin has told RAPSI. Investigators allege that on December 21 a group of persons, among them Lyubov Sobol, repeatedly attempted to entry into an apartment, where an old woman resided, of a house situated in the Eastern District of Moscow. Those involved illegally used uniforms of Russia’s consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor. After two attempts to enter the house had failed, Sobol deceived a delivery man saying she was a “abandoned wife with a baby,” could enter the building and as the old woman opened the door of her apartment Sobol pushed her back, entered the apartment, took a video of the premises on her phone, and left the place, according to the Investigative Committee.

RFE/RL, 17 October 2017: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and his brother Oleg were unfairly convicted of financial crimes at trial in the so-called Yves Rocher case in 2014. In an October 17 ruling, the ECHR said that Russian courts handed down “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” decisions in the case, which led to the imprisonment of Oleg Navalny and a suspended sentence for his better-known brother Aleksei. The Strasbourg-based court ordered Russia to pay a combined total of nearly 76,000 euros ($89,000) and 460,000 rubles ($8,000) to the brothers.

Hudoc, 17 October 2017: Case of Navalnyye v Russia.

RFE/RL, 10 January 2021: Exiled Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has accused Twitter of “an unacceptable act of censorship” in a thread arguing against that powerhouse private social network’s permanent ban on outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump after violence in Washington this week. The 44-year-old Kremlin foe warned in the 11-point thread that “this precedent will be exploited by enemies of freedom of speech around the world.” Navalny, who is in Germany after being flown there for emergency medical care from a poisoning in Russia in August, said that during his four-year term Trump “has been writing and saying very irresponsible things…[a]nd paid for it by not getting re-elected for a second term.” Critics say Trump has often used the platform to spread misinformation, hate, and incite violence, including unfounded accusations that the November election was “stolen.

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